Standing up and getting physical activity used to be an inconvenience, so we invented new technology to help us relax more, but it’s making us sick. Our modern technology is a blessing (it is the reason you are reading this right now without having to pay to go to a seminar), but like any technology, those benefits come with unwanted consequences.
We are becoming more sedentary than ever before, likely due to our new lifestyles that include video screens (Owen, Sparling, Healy, Dunstan, & Matthews, 2010). We have online shopping, telecommuting, video games, movies in our own home theaters or on mobile devices, and 24/7 access to the world’s biggest library and museum to answer all our questions without having to lift a book. But the luxury of our Internet-based lives is keeping us from engaging in what our bodies evolved to do: move!
Adopt the Habit: Stop Sitting; Stand Up Frequently
Excessive sedentary behavior contributes to a wide variety of health problems (Rezende, Rodrigues Lopes, Rey-López, Matsudo, & Luiz, 2014). Sitting for long periods during most days is associated with cardiovascular disease, some cancers, type 2 diabetes, and depression.
Depression has been shown to improve when treated with increasing physical activity to at least 40 minutes of moderate walking per day (Mammen & Faulkner, 2013). Even if you aren’t worried about medical problems, but you feel low, tired, or depressed, you may need to get up and move around more.
Standing while working at a desk can help increase your physical activity levels (Straker, Abbott, Heiden, Mathiassen, & Toomingas, 2013). You can buy a fancy ergonomic standing desk or just prop your computer monitor and keyboard on a stack of books.
If you don’t have such a standing desk or don’t work at a desk at all, just stand up frequently.
Adapt: Stand Up and Move Every 30 Minutes (or Whenever You Can)
Stand up and move around as frequently and as much as you can.
One study showed that standing up every 30 minutes and taking a 3-minute break was most beneficial. It increased physical activity more than standing up every hour and taking a 6-minute break or taking a 12-minute break every 2 hours (Bond et al., 2014). Ideally, stand up every 30 minutes and engage in a task that involves movement for at least 3 minutes (such as getting a cup of tea or using the bathroom).
If you cannot stand up every 30 minutes and move around, then stand up every hour or whenever you can. Something is better than nothing, and the more you can do it, the better.
If you cannot stand up at all, such as if you are in a wheelchair, then move in whatever way you can.
Attach: Stand Up When Doing Your Usual Activities
You can attach this new habit to something you already do, such as getting a cup of tea, refilling your water bottle, using the bathroom, checking your voicemail, or ending a video or TV show episode. If you watch shows with commercials, get up every time there is a commercial advertisement.
If you find yourself working for hours without being aware of the time and don’t have cues to trigger your stand-up-exercise-routine, then set an alarm to remind you.
Wellness Habits Are the Foundation of a Life of Well-Being
Bond, D. S., Thomas, J. G., Raynor, H. A., Moon, J., Sieling, J., Trautvetter, J., … Wing, R. R. (2014). B-MOBILE- a smartphone-based intervention to reduce sedentary time in overweight/obese individuals: a within-subjects experimental trial. PLoS ONE, 9(6), e100821. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0100821
Mammen, G., & Faulkner, G. (2013). Physical activity and the prevention of depression. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 45(5), 649–657. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2013.08.001
Owen, N., Sparling, P. B., Healy, G. N., Dunstan, D. W., & Matthews, C. E. (2010). Sedentary behavior: Emerging evidence for a new health risk. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 85(12), 1138–1141. https://doi.org/10.4065/mcp.2010.0444
Rezende, L. F. M. de, Rodrigues Lopes, M., Rey-López, J. P., Matsudo, V. K. R., & Luiz, O. do C. (2014). Sedentary behavior and health outcomes: An overview of systematic reviews. PLoS ONE, 9(8), e105620. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0105620
Straker, L., Abbott, R. A., Heiden, M., Mathiassen, S. E., & Toomingas, A. (2013). Sit–stand desks in call centres: Associations of use and ergonomics awareness with sedentary behavior. Applied Ergonomics, 44(4), 517–522. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apergo.2012.11.001